Thursday, 29 April 2010

No.14 'Hungry Chick' bento

I was extremely tired tonight after a busy day fitting a lot of things in. I wasn't sure whether I would manage a bento at all, and as it turns out I have made tomorrow's lunch very late into the evening, just before finally giving up my semi-comatose sleep under a blanket and heading to a more comfortable spot in bed.

There were lots of things today that I could have taken as inspiration for the last bento of the week. For instance, my children took part in a concert at their school and did very well singing in front of an audience. There were some fabulous instrumental pieces put on for the parents also. I considered a music theme, but put that thought aside as I set out my chopping board to prepare the meal. Instead I thought of the most peaceful time of the day, when we walked with a good friend of ours and her little dog before dinner. We always have nature spotting expeditions with this particular friend and today was no exception. As well as introducing the children to the names of newly flowering wild plant life, we all stood quietly by the woodland for some time, listening to the bird song of the newly paired birds. The nests are in full swing at the moment, with some very impressive constructions put up if you know where to look. A pair of magpies have set up their nest in a tree along our route to school, so we have been able to see it's development from a modest bungalow, to a dignified three storey townhouse. Nests mean new life and hungry chicks to feed. So here they are, two hungry bento chicks to feed my two hungry bento children.

A bed of leftover egg noodles, chopped spring onion and carrot, cream cheese sandwich trees and a cheese bird with chorizo wing. The same few ingredients have been used throughout this week, which has been quite economical, with the change in layout and vegetables keeping the food from getting too boring to eat. The meal is teamed with a layer of fresh strawberries and black grapes. Bon appetit, little ones.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

No.13 'Sisters' bento

Today's bento has been inspired by my big sister. She's been on my mind all day today, and that's never a bad thing. She has started making bento lunches for her little girl after being inspired by mine and the new joint-hobby is already giving us yet another bit of shared creative enjoyment. We weren't raised together, but we are alike in a multitude of ways. Apart from our similar aptitudes and abilities there are things which we share which are most valuable to me. Our loyalty and deep love and respect for one another and for our families. Our understanding of what is truly important. So today, in a very small way, I have put together a tribute to our relationship in bento form.

On the left, with the dark hair, is my amazing big sister and on the right with the pink hair is myself. I've left our curls in, because no matter how much we fight them, they always come back! I have us facing one another with big smiles, because in the land of bento we've just met up for that cup of tea we keep talking about and I've brought my special mug as promised. We've been teamed up with a layer of yummy looking fruit salad.

The portrait layers have been made with the same method as the rockabilly bento, but there is pickle added to the cheese sandwich today, because my son and daughter saw my new jar of pickle and gathered around me to make sure that some of it went into their bentos somewhere! The base of the portraits has some spring onion, (which my children love) and we have carrot flowers in our hair for an added touch of colour and fun. Here are the sisters up close. I'll tell the children in the morning that one box contains a picture of me and one has a picture of my sister. They can wait until lunch time to see who they got!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

No.12 Rockabilly bento

Inspired by a suggestion from Pete Custom of DC and the Customatix(link) fame, this bento is an attempt to capture two of the things which spring to mind immediately when I think 'rockabilly'. Pretty pin-up girl 50s style and the double bass. I made two identical bentos, but the faces of the girls ended up with completely different forms and character. I'll display the second one below, for comparison.

The blonde girl began with a base of lettuce, then a shaped cream cheese sandwich. Her face was cut out of a hand cut strip of red leicester cheese (try cutting a block lengthways on it's facing edge- not easy!). I was using individually wrapped cheese slices for making layers, but my children expressed deep displeasure with the 'plastic cheese'. Her features are 'tattooed' on with food colouring and tooth picks. I gave her green eyes and sulky red lips. Her hair is egg noodles and the ornament she has pinned in is half a strawberry. You can just see the shoulder of her tomato red dress.

The double base is a kind of open topped sandwich. A shaped piece of deli wrap 'varnished' with chorizo (a firm favourite with the children). More deli wrap for the detail and blue-dipped egg noodles for the strings. I think the meal should be quite filling, but I'll team it up with a little pot of yoghurt and a fruit 'Zinger' stick (shown in photo).

And here's the other girl. See how completely different she is. I think they are close friends that dress alike to go to concerts. Or maybe I'm giving them a bit too much personality for people made out of food... I'm brimming with bento ideas today, with at least three or four more formulated in my mind already. I have a quite complex Dr. Who themed one that I need to draw up carefully before I attempt. Also a Lichtenstein bento, which was inspired by today's bento and also by handling my violin so that I could put the bow into the picture as a prop. The violin's name is Warhol, and it was through reading Warhol's biographies that I first found mention of Lichtenstein. There is also a robot bento to consider...

Monday, 26 April 2010

No.11 The 'In-between' bentos

Tonight's post is about those in-between-er bentos that happen when I'm too tired to spend more than five minutes on lunch boxes but know that the children will be expecting something fabulous. The in-between-er bentos are far from fabulous, but they usually put a smile on their faces anyway. The one to the left is 'Happy hearts bento', which has a layer of carrot and cheese sticks with a ketchup dip and in the second layer some jammy heart shaped sandwiches with writing icing features. The funny thing is, despite it's simplicity, the children talked about this one quite a bit after eating it. Ketchup, cheese and jam are obviously winners at lunch time.

To the right is 'Jammy pancake bento', tonight's quick and simple lunch made from all sorts of things found in the cupboards on the night before shopping day. The savoury layer has brown rice noodles with a pinch of paprika stirred in for colour and seasoning, with a few cheese slivers on the top. The dessert layer has two slices of homemade sultana pancake, rolled with morello cherry jam (a particularly nice jam), a few extra sultanas and a piece of chocolate coated flapjack. The side dish is half a jaffa orange. I hope the noodles go down well with the children, particularly since one of them is certain to think that the pinch of paprika might be super-hot curry powder instead and not take a bite. I'll mention it in the morning to save the spicy misunderstanding...

With this picture I have made a weary attempt to create a more colourful background for the meal and set the bento up nicely. More practise with this in future!

Sunday, 25 April 2010

No.10 Suki Doll bento

This bento was inspired by the many Japanese doll images I've come across recently. The pattern on my insulated bento carrier is of these kinds of dolls with different outfits and cute expressions. I am now also the proud owner of socks with the same doll pattern. It was while I was admiring my socks that the idea came to me about making one of the dolls out of food items and I let the idea grow throughout the day until I matched my potential doll parts with available food in my fridge. 

It only took me ten minutes to make, so I'm thrilled with that fact. I used a bed of basmati rice and made up the doll out of half a boiled egg, a shaped tomato hairdo and a cucumber dress. She has carrot flowers at her feet. Her facial features were 'tattooed' into the egg with a tooth pick and tiny amounts of food colouring. I've never tried the tattooing method of colouring food before, but it turned out to be quite effective. The little tooth pick holes contained the colouring very well and let me achieve a lot of detail with no mess. In the next layer are some meat free swedish style balls and a few more little bits of carrot.

No.9 Hickory Dickory Dock bento

This week I had a packet of chocolate mice in the cupboard and wanted to use at least a few of them for bento creation. That meant turning my mind to nursery rhymes in this case. I found all the verses to Hickory Dickory Dock in an internet search, and both the children and I were surprised to find that there is a verse for every hour of the day!

The main dish is tofu yaki udon leftovers from the dinner I made tonight (very very tasty). The dessert dish has a hot cross bun clock spread with buttercream icing. Pitta bread slivers make the base and clock's pendulum. Three white chocolate mice run up and down.

No.8 Doctor Who bento #2 "Prisoner Zero has escaped"

This episode of Doctor Who was particularly scary, with Prisoner Zero being quite a terrifying adversary for the Doctor and for us viewers! In re-creating him out of mini-doughnuts and a titchy jam sandwich head, I think I took all of the scare out of him! He's surrounded by dried cranberries to fill the space. In the other box I have leftover macaroni cheese with half a boiled egg for the Atraxi eye and a cheese slice to make the cracked wall that it peered through from Amy Pond's wall. I added a little speech bubble in paper, which went down very well with the children. One of the speech bubbles is now tacked to our kitchen pin board as a bento souvenir.

No.7 Garden bento for Japanistic bento contest

This is a bento I entered into Hapa Bento's Japanistic bento box contest. They set a garden theme.
My first thoughts when considering a garden themed bento were about my own garden experiences in recent years. We don’t have a garden of our own any more, but we are lucky enough to be a five minute walk from a beautiful botanical garden, which is continually re-developed and improved. While the children run about and play, building dens, climbing trees and hiding in the bamboo patch, I set up my blanket by the frog pond and read my latest book.

We have some lovely days out there in our community garden. My bento for this contest tries to capture one of my days reading by the pond! A little bacon ‘me’ is lying on a blanket in a pepper circle reproduction of my new red sun hat! The pond reflects the blue skies, surrounded by bright flower beds and luscious green plants. The little cheese slice across the bacon figure was the closest I could come with short time to clothing! Teehee! She has been censored. 

No.6 Doctor Who bento #1 "Daleks and Toclafane"

This season of Doctor Who, with the eleventh doctor, has turned out to be absolutely fantastic! My children and I think that the writers have really outdone themselves and Matt Smith has not let us down with his interpretation of the Time Lord. Fantastic. As a tribute to the new episodes, I have set out to make several Doc Who themed bentos, with this dalek one being the first. The dalek is a cream cheese sandwich with a few spots of food colouring. After I had made it my daughter suggested that soy sauce would have done just as well, which I will remember for some of my future black dying work.

The tradition of bento makers is to use leftovers from the previous day's meals wherever possible, and I do this myself quite often. It's very economical and practically eliminates food waste from pots of leftovers being forgotten in the fridge. Great stuff. In the second layer we have pesto coated pasta twirls and some radish 'toclafane' for added crunch. The toclafane were from the last doctor's adventures I know, but I wanted to EXTERMINATE the last of my radishes.

No.5 Tapas forest bento

I called this one my 'tapas forest' bento. The day before making this I had lunch at one of my favourite cafes where tapas is very popular. I didn't order tapas myself but wished I had! The next day I gave these bentos to my children instead. It took about five minutes to make too, so that was great. Carrot and cucumber sticks to dip into the little pot of humous, salad onions, bread and butter trees, radish 'mushrooms', chorizo and a little bottle of soy sauce.

No.4 Under the Sea bento

This is my 'under the sea' bento. The base is sushi rice coloured with two drops of blue food colouring while cooking. The octopus body is a cut radish and the tentacles, which I found very effective, were made from thin strips of skinned cucumber. More cucumber makes up the fronds of seaweed and a few torn pieces of chorizo are there to make coral. In the second later I have a cheese fishy, tinted a bit with some yellow and black food colouring. There are also some carrot crabs and black olive rocks. This bento took a little over half an hour to make because I hadn't planned it beforehand and I wasn't sure what was going in it.

No.3 Totoro bento

My children and I are big Totoro fans and I promised them a few Totoro bento designs in the future. This is my first, and features a little egg 'wood spirit' with peppercorn eyes, a few bread and butter trees and some radish mushrooms. Most of my bentos have a bed of lettuce at the base to add some green, although most of this doesn't get eaten! I've started using a little less lettuce so there isn't as much waste, and that means that most of it doesn't come home any more. In the second box I have a pink onigiri  from the leftover pink Domo rice of the day before and a few slices of chorizo.

Monday, 19 April 2010

No.2 Pink Domo bento

Three pink Domokun characters! These three bento were my first charaben work for the year. Inspired by the brilliant "Miss Domo Bento" by Pikko at Adventures in bentomaking

Domokun is made from sushi rice cooked with two drops of red food colouring and shaped using cling film after cooling. The mouth is shaped from hand cut slices of carrot and the eyes are splodges of vegemite. The sliced vegetarian sausages above the Domo figures looked like a  full head of hair for him! At least, my son certainly saw them that way. In the second layer I put checkerboard apple and apple rabbits for the children and a sliced  jaffa orange for my own portion. Nestled in the fruit section are two of our leftover Easter goodies.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

No.1 Picnic bentos

Last Summer my children and I were eating our lunch out on the balcony in the sunshine. We sat out on a blanket for a few hours each day, taking our books for entertainment. Lovely days! It was at that time when I discovered bento as a hobby and a way of lunch. The two trays of food shown here are picnic bento. Top left is my attempt at a landscape. It has (from rear to front) vegetarian sausage sandwich 'mountains', finely shopped salad 'flower fields', queen olive 'hills', apple 'rabbits', celery in humous 'swampy trees', corn snack 'corn fields' and a danish pastry 'farmhouse'.

The second bento, below, is our sleepy bundle baby picnic. From rear to front it has a sweet thai chili dip 'moon', potato star 'constellations' against a finely chopped salad 'sky', egg 'bundled babies' with peppercorn features in their soft chocolate chip brioche 'cribs'.These bentos were very easy to make, and turned a simple plate of eggs and salad into something to spark the childrens imaginations. Once I started with charaben creations I was hooked, so soon after the summer break I ordered bento boxes and accessories so that we could carry on enjoying the fun lunches even once we were at school and work. The bento accessories themselves can be quite addictive!


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